The stranger bid farewell to Benson and Babble and headed off on his own.

     “Well, I guess it’s just you and me now”, said Benson.

     “Where are we going?” asked Babble.

     “I thought we’d head into the city”, said Benson.  “I still have enough money to rent a room for us and get a little food.  Then I’ll introduce you around to whoever we meet and find those who need your help.  Would you like that?”

     “I’m not comfortable around humans”, Babble said.  “I prefer other animals.”  When he saw the look on Benson’s face he added, “I like you, though.”

     “That’s a relief”, said Benson.  “I know we just met, but I like you, too.  I hope we’ll be good friends forever.”

     Benson gave Babble a kiss and rubbed his neck gently as they walked.  It was evening before they arrived at the outskirts of the city.  Both Benson and Babble were in awe of the sights; neither had been to a city before.  But they were tired and hungry from their long walk.  They decided to look for lodging right away.

     “Good evening”, he said to the owner of the nearest Inn.  “I seek lodging for the night.”

     “Sorry”, the man said, “no animals.”  He slammed the door.

     “See what I mean about humans?” said Babble.

     At the next Inn, the owner also said no animals were allowed.  “But this is a special animal”, Benson explained.  “This bird can speak.”

     “I’ve heard stories of such birds”, the Innkeeper said, “but I didn’t believe them.  Show me.”

     “Go on, Babble”, said Benson, “say something.”  Babble stood silent, looking at the Innkeeper.

The silence grew.  “Well”, said Benson, “he really only speaks to other animals.”

     The Innkeeper slammed the door.

     “Hello”, said Babble.

     “It’s too late now”, said Benson.

     “Sorry”, Babble said.  “I didn’t know what to say.”

     “That’s a first”, said Benson.  “Don’t worry, there are plenty of other places around here.”  At the next place they tried, a woman greeted them.

     “Oh”, said the woman, “what a beautiful bird! I love birds!”

     “We seek lodging for the night”, Benson said.

     “You would be most welcome here”, she said, “except we have several large cats that would make a meal out of your friend.  You should try the Silver Spoon across the street.  They don’t have any cats there.”

     “Thank you”, said Benson.  They went across the street and knocked on the door.  A woman answered.

     “Oh, what a lovely bird!” she said.  “What’s his name?”

     “My name is Babble”, said the bird.

     “Oh, how clever!” she said.  “A talking bird!”

     “Not only that”, said Benson, “but he can talk to other animals and translate what they say to me!”

     “Remarkable!” said the woman.

     “We need lodging for the night”, Benson said.

     “I’m afraid I can’t help you”, said the woman.  “We have several guard dogs, and your bird would not be safe.  You should try the Golden Glove down the street.  The owner there loves animals, but they don’t have any living there.”

     Benson thanked her and took her advice.  He knocked on the door and told Babble to be on his best behavior.  They were greeted by a kindly old man who clapped his hands with excitement at the sight of
Babble, who was showing off his wings and said “Hello.”

     “My, what an extraordinary creature”, said the man.  “I love animals.”

     “See”, Benson said to Babble, “humans aren’t so bad.”

     “Unfortunately”, the man said, “I am terribly allergic to them”.  He let out a loud sneeze.  “See?” he said, and sneezed again.  “However, you may stay in the barn next door if you wish.  My neighbor is out of town, but he is my friend.  I’m sure he won’t mind.

     It was getting late.  “Thank you”, said Benson,   “I think I’ll take you up on the offer.”

Benson made himself comfortable in the barn.  The straw was dry and cool and he was exhausted.  Babble snuggled up next to him.  Soon, they were both asleep.  The next morning, they woke up early.

     “I’m hungry”, said Babble.

     “Me, too”, said Benson, “but we don’t have much of my inheritance money left since I bought you.  Lets see what we can get to eat in the woods.”

     “I’m game”, said the bird.

     “Ok, lets go”, said Benson.

     “No”, said Babble.  “I’m GAME.  I’m food for the beasts in the woods.”

     “Oh“, said Benson.  “I’ll tuck you inside of my jacket, alright?  Just your head will be showing.”

      “That’s better”, said Babble.

      Sure enough, they encountered a bear in the woods.  Fortunately, he was not hungry, and appeared to be in a good mood.

     “My name if GRRRaybeard”, the bear said as Babble translated.  “It’s a GRRReat day for GRRRazing.”

     “We’re hungry”, said Benson.  “What is there to eat around here?”

     “Well”, said Graybeard, “You may share my GRRRapes if you don’t get too GRRReedy.”

     “Thank you very much”, said Benson.  The bear wandered away as they ate.  The grapes were sweet, but not very filling.  As they looked for other food, they encountered a little green snake.

     “My name is SSSam”, said the snake.  “I haven’t SSSeen you two here before.”

     “We’re looking for food”, said Benson.

     “I’ll help you if you help me”, said Sam.  “I’m SSShedding, and my SSSkin is SSSo itchy.  Can you SSScratch it for me?”

     “I’d be happy to”, said Benson, who obliged him.

     “Ahh”, said Sam, “That feels better.”  Sam rose up and flicked his tongue in and out.  “I SSSense the SSScent of figs”, he said.  “It’s SSSafe to SSSay you’ll find them over there to your left.”

     “Thank you”, said Babble.  “I’m sure they’ll be SSScruptious.”

     “I hope they SSSatisfy you”, said Sam.  “SSSee you!”

     The figs were indeed delicious.  They ate their fill and took some with them and returned to the city.  Over the next few weeks, Benson still had no luck getting a room with Babble on what little money he had left.  To make matters worse, a famine was in the land.  Benson eventually found work caring for someone’s pigs.  He became so hungry, he wished he could eat the rotten pods that he was feeding the pigs.  After a long, hard day, he returned to the barnyard feeling discouraged.

     “I’m sorry that I’m so much trouble”, Babble said. 

     “That’s alright”, said Benson.  “I really enjoy your company.”

     “But you spent your whole inheritance on me”, said Babble.  “I wish I could be more help.”

     Benson sighed.  “I guess people don’t have the money to spend on hearing what other animals have to say”, he said.  “I think we’d better go home to my father and beg his forgiveness.  Maybe he could give me a job as one of his hired hands.”

     “I guess this is farewell, then”, said Babble.

     “Oh, no!” said Benson.  “You’re the best friend I’ve ever had.  No matter what happens, you’re staying with me.”

     They started back for home in the morning.  Eventually the city fell behind them and the countryside began to appear.  By the end of the day, they made it back to his father’s ranch.  He stopped first at the barnyard to introduce Babble.  At the sight of him, the animals gathered for a closer look, each one uttering in their own language.

     “What are they saying?” Benson asked Babble.   The bird translated.

      “What’s your NAAAme?” said the horse.

     “How do you cock-a-doodle DO?” said the rooster.

     “You’re BAAAck”, said the sheep.

     “I thought you MOOOved”, said the cow.

     “It must have been RUFF”. said the dog.

     “Let MEOWT”, said the cat.

     “Don’t NAAAg me”, said the goat.

     “PEEPle have been asking about you”, said the chick.

     “I heard that you’re a QUACK”, said the duck.

      “Son!” his father said from behind him.  “I’m so glad you’re home!”

     “Father”, Benson said, “I have sinned before heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

     “I know, son”, his father said.  “You left here to go buy a ranch of your own, and you spent your money on something else.  But the important thing is that you’re home.”

     “Father”, Benson said, “Could you please see your way fit to hire me as one of your workers?  I will gladly work for just food and lodging in the workhouse.”

     “Well”, his father said, “I see that your experience has matured you.”

     “Oh, yes!” Babble chimed in, “He has taken very good care of me all this time.”

     “Who’s this?” his father said, surprised.

     “I’m his best friend”, Babble said with some pride.

     “What a clever bird”, said his father.

     “I’m afraid that’s where my inheritance money went”, said Benson.  “I thought I could make a fortune with him, but with the famine in the land, we hardly had any food to eat, and we had to sleep in a stable.”

     “Those days are over”, said his father.  He called for his servants to bring Benson some new clothes, and he put his own ring on Benson’s finger.  “We are going to have a feast tonight, and you will find your old room just as you left it.  Welcome home, son.”

     “What’s all the fuss about?” came a voice from behind.  It was Benson’s older brother, Jasper.  “Well, look who’s back”, he said.

     “Hello”, said Babble cheerfully.

     “Is this what you spent your money on?” said Jasper.  “A bird?”

     “Not just any bird”, said Benson.  “This bird can talk to all animals.”

     “Hello”, said Babble.

     “I can see that”, said Jasper.

     “No”, said Benson, “he speaks.  He can carry on a conversation.  Show him, Babble.”

     “Hello”, the bird said.

     “Impressive”, Jasper said.  “Father, I’m done with my chores.  What’s for dinner?”

     “Nothing but the best tonight”, his father said.  “My long lost son has returned.  We shall kill the fatted calf.”

     “What?” exclaimed Jasper.  “Father, I have been here all along, doing my chores as well as his.  I have never transgressed your commandments at any time, and yet you never gave me even so much as a young goat, that I may make merry with my friends.  In the meantime, Benson has been squandering his inheritance, and now you put your fine robes on him, your ring on his hand, sandals on his feet, and order our prize calf to be prepared for him?”

     “Yes”, his father said.  “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.  It is right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and now is found.”

     It didn’t take long for Babble to begin to live up to his name.  As he chatted amiably with everyone, he won over both man and beast with his charm.  Milk and egg production tripled, and the family farm prospered.  But the biggest change was within Benson.  With a warm heart, he did his chores happily from that day onward, with Babble always by his side.